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Literature: Labyrinths of Echo
Labyrinths of Echo (original title: "Лабиринты Ехо"note ) is a Russian Urban Fantasy-slash-Magical Land series written between 1996 and 2003 by Svetlana Martynchik, better known by her pen name Max Frei. Extremely popular in Russia, it is in the process of being translated into English, with the first volume (The Stranger) published in 2009 by Overlook Press.

The series concerns Sir Max, a regular shmoe from our world, who is invited and subsequently transported to Another Dimension, one where magic and the miraculous are commonplace. It's not all flowers and butterflies there, however: some eighty years ago, a Great Offscreen War between numerous magical Orders nearly brought about The End of the World as We Know It by depleting the World's Heart, its sole source of magical energy. The catastrophe was narrowly averted and an ironclad Ban on Magic was enacted in the city of Echo, which stands atop the World's Heart. To enforce the ban, an elite regiment of Mage Killers was formed to hunt down any rogue mages and exiled Magisters of the disbanded Orders who return to Echo. As it turns out, Max was invited over because he has a rare capacity for True Magic, one which doesn't strain the World's Heart, as well as a number of nifty little talents that make him a great addition to said regiment, known as the "Lesser Secret Investigations Force" or simply "Secret Investigations".

Despite the dark premise, the series is quite humorous and lighthearted most of the time, resulting in severe Mood Whiplashes whenever the shit actually goes south.

In addition to the main series, two books were published starring Sir Max but with little connection to the core series. Both end with Reset Button, so it's left less than clear whether they are supposed to be parts of the continuity, dreams, Alternate Universe experiences, or samples of the stories from Mönin's notebook which nearly drove poor Max nuts. Given the nature of the setting and of Max himself, combinations of these answers can't be ruled out either.

After the final volume, the Labyrinths were continued by a Sequel Series, the Chronicles of Echo. It consists of prequels narrated by other characters after The Quiet City, but describing events at various times spanning from before the War of the Codex to after The Quiet City. This series is finished and currently contains 8 volumes, with the most recent one published in 2013.

Please add any character tropes to the series' characters list. For a complete list of the series' volumes, refer to Recap.Labyrinths Of Echo.

The series provides examples of following tropes:

  • Actual Pacifist: Prequels provide exposition on the healers' Call. Anyone who experiences this is driven to help others. To the point of being unable to sleep if a potential patient can't get to them, so in "Old Times" a healer's house had no locks and criminals won't touch the healers' property. They also tend to be good at detecting when someone suffers in the first place. A true healer discovering he accidentally harmed someone (for them, it's impossible to have an intent) catches a bad case of Heroic BSOD.
    • Juffin had to allow a natural healer to help random bystanders when it could compromise plans to save locals from a Fate Worse Than Death — after which got this guy kicked out of provincial SI and put into medical school where he belongs. Kofa Yokh stated that no healer was ever imprisoned for using too much magic to save a patient's life, only "get a little talking eye to eye with Juffin — yes, I know, some dislike this". There's no arguing with "the call" — once it pulls someone, it's let him or break him.
    • However, healers can fight monsters far from "people" enough to not trigger these reactions and not even living in the first place. Natural healers also tend to be talented mages with lots of practice and hell-bent on saving lives. The current King's Healer started in a provincial SI where he once faced the monster hard to resist, extremely hard to kill and "vaporizing" on death. He took a piece of this thing as a trophy and sent it to the capitol.
  • The Alcatraz: The Anti-Magic prison Kholomi, designed to hold the most dangerous prisoners. The only successful attempt to penetrate the barrier involved dying and walking as a non-corporeal spirit. Another time, Juffin was called to supervise scrubbing the remnants of almost-escapee from the walls.
    • The castle was built right on top of the Heart of the World, from sentient stones, by the founder of the Ancient Dynasty, Khalla Makhun the Furry, who asked every single stone where it wanted to be placed. So the place was the palace of monarchs, then buckled, set up a different time scale and was used as a Wizarding School, and in the Era of Codex it chose to change again and became the ultimate prison. Oh, and there's also the spirit of Kholomi, which will from time to time wake up and require two extraordinarily strong mages to keep it from dancing.
  • Alternate Self: The Murakoks have several of them living in different worlds across the setting's many worlds. They believe that all of their lives are equally real.
  • Ancient Tradition: The group of mages actively working to save the world. Known members are Juffin's mentor Makhi Ainti and Maba Kalokh. Strongly tied to Maba Kalokh's appropriately named Order of the Clock of Backward Time, these Ancient Magisters can build time bridges to the past. They convinced King Mönin to use his Arbiter power in the Quiet City, and told Juffin to seek out more Arbiters to relieve Mönin. Juffin's wife told him that he needs to be unhappy for his task, and left him via time bridge. Juffin assumes she got her wish to be among the Ancient Magisters.
  • Apology Gift: In "A Talkative Dead Man," a stranger who accidentally broke Sir Max's favorite cup earlier pops up unexpectedly and presents him with a new one. It quickly turns out that nobody except Max recalls ever seeing this man and that the cup once belonged to the legendary King Mönin.
  • The Archmage: Various Grand Magisters of the ancient Orders were usually their respective most powerful members. Ironically, the Order of the Seven-Leaf was never the most powerful tradition magically and Grand Magister Nuflin couldn't hold a candle to most of his competitors, yet they won the War of the Codex through strategy and politics, leaving him the sole Archmage of Echo.
  • Artifact Title: In the first edition, the volume The Dark Side was supposed to include four novels, with the eponymous Spirit World being introduced in the third. However, the volume was split for publishing, resulting in a title that had nothing to do with it contents. This was fixed in the later editions.
  • Background Magic Field: the Heart of the World. Almost all citizens of Echo, built upon the Heart's location, are fairly competent at Plain Magic - babies keep their diapers clean by a grade 2 spell. Magic items from all over the world gain a significant power boost in Echo, and items and enchantments from Echo either weaken or drain other power sources if moved away.
  • Ban on Magic: Not all magic, only the Plain Magic and only for grades above the fifth. The legal magic is quite enough to ensure reasonably comfortable existence for everyone. Later in the series, the law is further relaxed for cooks who gain the right to use magic up to grade 20 for their professional activities, and several books later Plain Magic licenses become available to the general population.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy by means of Alternate Self and Flash Sideways: As Murakoks share the memories across all of their instances, Max suspects Josef Stalin whose pseudonim was "Koba" to be a Murakok instance of Echo's Beggars' Foreman who also goes by "Koba". Thus Koba's weird jokes about Echo's LSIF make Max both wary and curious about the man.
  • Beneath the Mask: One of recurring themes.
    • The Dark Side smoothly disables assumed faces, bringing true personalities to the surface - Shurf leaves both LSIF's Sir Lonli-Lokli and the Holey Chalice Order's Mad Fishmonger behind. Sotofa and Juffin, two insufferable magic prodigies from Kettari, leave the old and wizened Seven-Leaf Order's Head Witch Sotofa Khanemer and the LSIF's Most Reverend Chief Sir Juffin Khalli behind them.
    • Max and Shurf, both during a state of heightened awareness, note that "Most Reverend Chief" and "Kettarian Hunter" are mere masks, and that Juffin Khalli is a being beyond humanity and lacking human weaknesses. Max compares him to Khabba Khän, contrasting that Khabba is benevolent, maybe beneficial, to the world at large, and spreads an aura of peace. Juffin instead spreads an aura of fear - the Book of Burning Pages possibly displayed Juffin rather accurately.
    • During Ulviar's Exchange, Max notes that "Sir Max from Echo" is also just a mask, and wonders why the true self was content at wearing the same mask for so long.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed with people Driven to Suicide or committing Suicide by Cop: Anavuayna disease not merely kills the body, but also destroys the soul / the Shadow. Affected citizens decide to gamble on any form of afterlife before the disease runs its course: some commit suicides by drowning or by imbibing various Gargle Blasters and some just take their fury out on the police and LSIF forces patrolling the city.
  • Blatant Lies: during an epidemy of Anavuayna, Max is among those capable of curing the affected with his Deathly Spheres. Max encounters several dozen infected and casts as many Deathly Spheres as he can at random. As the lucky ones recover and disperse, he tells the others that he'll need a short break and then continue. While the people don't know that Max needs several hours to recover from the effort, thus dooming the remaining crowd, he is immediately called out on it by a low-level clairvoyant in the crowd.
  • Blood Magic:
    • Drinking the blood of a superior mage will, for magical observation, make it look like the mage is in your proximity.
    • Drinking the blood of a child causes the drinker to appear much weaker, or strongly confused and disoriented, without actual loss of power.
    • Ukkumbi pirates will often inflict a cut on themselves and make a blood sacrifice to their ships by smearing some blood on the wood, in order to prevent sea sickness. Max does so for Filo, Anchifa's ship, by chance, and states that this ritual has an effect for him.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Powerful magic, according to Juffin, has the side effect of modifying the user's moral compass. Common effects are the dichotomies of "interesting vs. boring", "secret vs. obvious" or "free vs. captive". Well, he said that about True Magic, but experience shows that this worked for the Plain Magic users just as well:
    • Loyso Pondokhva might as well be a poster boy for this. An incredible Plain Magic prodigy, possibly the most powerful mage of all times, he (and his Order of a Water Crow as well) was a textbook Mad Scientist who'd do anything For Science! and power — up to the destroying of the whole world for the off chance that it'll allow him to absorb all of its energy and grant him godlike powers. Granted, Loyso was slightly gifted in True Magic, as well (at least enough to make Juffin spare him)...
    • Juffin himself is actually a transhuman being whose true guidelines and intentions aren't probably known to his own current form — he likes to "play human", so he speaks from the experience.
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Students' and some other clubs in Echo. Some clubs, e.g. the Bark-Eaters, who regularly gather tree bark, turn it into gourmet food and proceed with a feast, are harmless. Yet other clubs became or gave birth to Orders, e.g. the Holey Chalice club.
  • Brown Note: Books of the Burning Pages, which kill anyone who tries to read them by dropping the reader far below the Despair Event Horizon, with the only consolation being the single (albeit quite good) poem of their creator. So far only three persons managed to survive reading such a book, two being the very powerful ancient Magisters who were able to fight the books' spells, and the third being Max, who fell for the bait hook, line and sinker and simply lucked out, as Shurf managed to save him before the book was able to consume him completely, and who suffered a serious nervous breakdown afterwards.
  • Cannibalism Superpower: Simply eating a person does little to nothing in terms of power, but some known Human Sacrifice rituals essentially elevate cannibalism to Ritual Magic.
  • Child Prodigy: Nuflin Moni Makh, Kofa Yokh, Loyso Pondokhva, Abilat Paras, Shurf Lonli-Lokli, Melifaro and Numminorikh Kuta. To elaborate:
    • Young Nuflin is described by contemporary sources as a "living promise of power". He convinced 7 respected mages to quit their Orders, accept him as their common disciple and found a new Order for his sake, thus starting the Seven-Leaf, and did so at an age where most Orders would have sent him to study.
    • Kofa Yokh was released from Seven-Leaf after they had nothing to teach him. Because of Khumkha's meddling and the resulting Obfuscating Stupidity used by Kofa, Kofa's true potential is first seen as the police general.
    • Loyso Pondokhva literally learned to float before learning to walk. He is the strongest Plain Magic user known and the founding Grand Magister of the Water Crow Order. Younger Magisters from his Order often dispatched Magisters and Elder Magisters of other Orders, and Loyso takes the credit for destruction of Kettari, forcing the birth of a new world.
    • Abilat Paras learned to use the Dark Way from books. According to Juffin, the Dark Way is basic True Magic and as such can not be taught without a mentor. Abilat is also very skilled at Plain Magic and the King's Healer.
    • Shurf Lonli-Lokli repeated Loyso's feat of floating before walking and pulled off a reanimation spell on his pet at an age too young to be admitted to any Order's school.
    • Melifaro's breakthrough happened as he bullied / blackmailed a Seven-Leaf novice into teaching him a grade 8 bottle-uncorking spell. The resulting grade 59 explosion flattened the pub, giving Juffin a welcome excuse to get his future Day-Face and Dark Side Guardian into the LSIF.
    • Numminorikh Kuta learned and used spells taught by his mother, a Master Opener of Doors, at a toddler's age. According to the Book of Burning Pages, he is also capable of opening a Dark Way from anywhere.
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: Even the most skilled mages can be taken out with a Baboom sling headshot, yet Order mages (and by extension the LSIF) consider them a plebeian weapon violating their contests of magic skill. While it is relatively easy for the said skilled mage to protect himself from a Baboom slug, it requires careful preparation and actually expecting the attack, as it's difficult for most (except the very top-tier ones—and we're speaking Loyso and Shurf's level here) magic users to keep the spell constantly active. And the spell itself is so much above the officially permitted threshold that just using it constitutes a crime.
  • City of Adventure: Echo for Sir Max. Justified in that Echo is quite literally the center of the world (or rather, stands on top of it). The antipodal point to the World's Heart has its own benefits, but it is hidden on the bottom of the ocean so no city was ever built there.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe:
    • Terror of Mages: Mages might materialize something straight out of their nightmares. Thus, horror as a genre is unknown until Max introduces Shurf to some works from our world.
    • Ulviar the Faceless once wanted to level a castle, yet the enchantments on it were too strong. To save face, he put up a wall of fog and had the bards compose a detailed epic poem and even a dance about his work of destruction. As the fog spell dispersed several centuries ago, the castle was in ruins exactly as described.
  • Code Name: The official job titles and other titles of the LSIF are:
    • Juffin Halli: Most Reverent Chief of the LSIF
    • Melifaro: Day-Face of the Most Reverent Chief
    • Max: Night-Face of the Most Reverent Chief, "Death in the King's Service"
    • Melamori Blimm: Master of Tracking the Hiding and the Fleeing ones
    • Shurf Lonli-Lokli: Master Interrupter of Unneeded Lives, "Truth in the King's Service", promoted from "Death in King's Service"
    • Luukfi Penc: Master Keeper of Knowledge
    • Kofa Yokh: Master Listener
    • Skalduar Van Dufunbukh: Master Escorter of the Dead (mortician of the LSIF)
  • Dark World: The Dark Side, kinda. "Dark Side" is a poetic epithet given to the Spirit World underlying the material world of Echo. It is no more malicious than the material world and it's not actually "dark" there (except for Sir Max, who initially takes the name too seriously and his belief makes him perceive it as literally painted black, though still discernible enough to admire).
  • Deadly Prank: The first time Max uses his Poisonous Spit of Death ability, he does it for the lulz, since he was told it only works when he is scared and the criminal on the receiving end wasn't particularly scary. Turns out, he was misinformed.
  • Dead Person Conversation:
    • A combination of high-grade black and white spells allowed a person thus inclined to become a ghost after death. Ghosts in the Echo setting are fully sentient. This rite was performed as a paid service, and for a hefty extra your ghost would be capable of full interaction with the material world.
    • Due to Tehhi's unique family history, all her siblings who died became ghosts. They regularly visit Tehhi's bar anyway.
    • Tüvin, the deceases Chief of Huron River Harbor, liked the place and his job so well that his ghost now serves as Spirit Advisor to the current Chief of Harbor. Unfortunately, he was so drunk when he was killed in a duel with a famous smuggler, that he became The Unintelligible. Only the said current Chief of Harbor can understand him. Most of the time.
    • Juffin once killed a pack of cards to play with a ghost - it was easier to make ghost cards than to allow the ghost interaction with real ones.
    • While most mages are well capable of banishing ghosts, few will do so without reason, and most consider this murder.
    • Resurrection spells are very rare in Echo. Undead can be created, but due to the problem of getting the soul / the Shadow / the Spark back, they are rarely used. If done correctly, the undead can be at least interrogated, and if done with sufficient skill and power, produce disturbingly close similarities to the person.
  • Dem Bones: Using reanimation spells on Anavuayna victims' remains results in this trope.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: After Anchifa Melifaro started his career as a pirate and amassed a fairly large bodycount, Death herself (at least Anchifa claims the avatar to be female) made a deal with him, saying that it is not Anchifa's destiny to serve her. Now Anchifa can suppress the fight instincts of his victims with a mere glance, thus avoiding unnecessary bloodshed, and in exchange Death sometimes looks at the world through his eyes and walks within him.
  • Dream Weaver: A common occupation in Echo. One of them kicks off the plot in The Return of Ugurbado.
  • Egyptian Mythology: Max assumes some transfer of knowledge between Echo and the ancient Egypt, and suspects Mokhi Ainti, Juffin's mentor of being an actual ancient Egyptian. Points in case:
    • A dish called "Hathor turkey" - a roasted turkey served suspended between the horns on a bovine head. As Max notes that it's a cow, not a bull, as Hathor is a goddess, Kofa Yokh wonders aloud since when Max had access to the secret Seven-Leaf libraries.
    • A soul forcibly returned from the Paths of the Dead to Echo looks very much like egyptian depictions, even with the gait. Max comments that those priests might have painted souls from actual specimen.
    • The rite to access the Paths of the Dead requires a fusion of man and animal. Said fusion of Max and Droopy, his Empty Lands shepherd, resembles Anubis.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • The living and sentient city of Cherhavla.
    • The eponymous Green Waters' Dweller.
    • The unnamed entity dwelling at the point opposite to World's Heart on the globe.
  • The Empath: Anyone with the Healer's Call.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Always looming in the background.
  • Equivalent Exchange: Echo's Beggar's Foreman Koba claims that the Beggars' Guilds serve to balance the cities, and that removing them would simply reduce other citizens to beggars.
  • Extranormal Prison: Kholomi, a prison where Plain Magic simply doesn't work (at least, in the time-frame of the core novels—there was a time when it served as the royal palace, and presumably had no such restrictions).
  • Failure Knight: Khel'burik of Ukkumbi wanted to scare contemporary writers from writing novels by claiming that each novel creates a new world, causing all characters to experience a permanent And I Must Scream state, as their world freezes where the narration ended. The spell he wrought to support his claims worked too well, making his claims come true. Khel'burik realized that he can not destroy those Dead Illusion Worlds. To atone for this, he became a person legendary in his own right, Jochchi Shavanakhola. Known as the Merry Magister, he overcame death to support his best friend Ch'yolve Maytokhchi, the Wild Wind, in the task of destroying those worlds. Max, having set Loyso free, simply calls him to Jochchi's and Ch'yolve's aid.
  • Fantastic Drug: Psychoactive substances of another world generally are a gamble. Max is wasted and nearly killed by a weak and utterly safe relaxant, but mostly immune to side effects of a strong psychostimulant. In turn, Max accidentally acquired pot smoking which temporarily disabled his friends Lawful Good personality, so that old Chaotic Stupid version re-emerged.
  • Fantastic Light Source: Echo is illuminated by orange fungi-generated light and by magical blue lights.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Discussed a lot. It's often mentioned than "it's not like anyone really compared", but there are a few good candidates. For example, pureblood elves, once they'll taste alcohol, will drink until reduced to near-mindless and literally semitransparent state — they are immortal, all right... The whole people of Manukhs collected several hundreds of hereditary curses from mouse kings of Uanduk, while their neighbours, the Khenkha, insisted that life under one self-inflicted (and they consider telepathic talk to be great magic) curse "is not worth living". The summary effect of the curses upon the Manukh spreads to the Empty Lands and is so great that Max, in agreement with the Khenkha shaman Fayriba, orders the tribe exterminated.
  • Fisher King: The princes of Kumon travel to Cherhavla to obtain this power. While they are capable, among other feats, to hear their subjects' thoughts as the winds carry them, it also causes them sensory overload.
  • Flash Sideways: Murakoks live like this all the time. Max also mentally contacted his alternate selves in side-stories and while revisiting his (and our) world the first time was almost absorbed by the local timeline.
  • Flight:
    • The countries on the Uanduk continent use flying vehicles, the Bubbles of Buurarkhi.
    • Sufficiently powerful mages (e.g. Juffin Halli, Shurf Lonli-Lokli, Max after using a holey chalice, Loyso Pondokhva, who was rumored to have learned flying as a baby before walking) can just fly under their own power.
    • Those few admitted and accepted by burivukhs can learn to turn into one and fly in this form.
    • The clubhouse of the eponymous Oak Leaves' Club is seen flying over Echo.
  • Food Porn: A numerous, extremely loving and detailed descriptions of food, both mundane and magical, is one of the central themes of the series, especially in the earlier volumes. As the series started in mid-90es, the rumor goes that it was a particularly lean period for the author, which has left its impact. Food even makes a central plot point of several stories, "King Bangee" being the most notable.
  • Forced to Watch: a rogue True Magic user attempts to take over the harbor city of Gazhin by forcing the important people into perpetual nightmares until they sign some property deals to his benefit. As Juffin Khalli investigates, he notes that some people's nightmares were not about their own fears:
    • One of the mayors sees his grand-children starving and raped.
    • The city's admiral sees himself close to death by thirst, and the only available liquid are his family members suffering from Anavuayna.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip / Personality Swap: The Exchange of Ulviar, also known as the Candle of Fittekh and as the Shadow's Scent. The ritual was invented by the ancient keyifaya king Ulviar the Faceless. Depending on source, his royal healer Fittekh was either the co-inventor or merely assisted Ulviar. The ritual consists of crafting a large wick-less candle from several dozens of rare ingredients, lighting it and extinguishing the flame immediately. The candle slowly glows or smolders spreading a scent Max describes as "a September's night". During this time, at least one of the two participants has to chant the incantation. As there are no data about effects with more than 2 participants, the ritual is best done in a room locked and sealed from inside, and if possible, guarded from the outside to prevent any interventions. The ritual causes the participants' Shadows to come to them and to switch places. The effect holds for 12-20 hours, depending on source, and reverts instantaneously no matter where the participants are, requiring no further action from them. The effect switches not only personas and personalities, but also skills and compulsions - Ulviar possessed not only the healing skills, but also the Healer's call as long as the spell lasted, while Fittekh displayed not only his king's usual ambitions, but also his diplomacy and orator's skills. After Max, needing to find a way to "want and not want", bemoans his lack of self-control and tells Shurf Lonli-Lokli that he'd like to borrow Shurf's self-control once too often, Shurf tells Max about the ritual. As Shurf considers Max's persona a welcome change from his usual self, Max actually suggests doing it more often.
  • Functional Magic:
    • The Plain Magic. Uses forces of the world. It is subdivided into Black and White Magic (Black Magic mainly affects material things, while White Magic affects minds and emotions) and graded by the amount of magical power used. The ultimate Plain Magic grade is 234, Loyso "rumored to" reach 235. Grades 1 to 5 are pretty harmless, while anything above that is illegal under the Codex of Khrembrer, since the world is already over-drained. An amendment after a century makes an exception for cooks, allowing them to use black magic up to grade 20 for cooking. Plain Magic is safe to use it far from the Heart of the World, but very few can do this, as the effects of spells and enchantments notably fade with distance.
      • Black Magic / White Magic: Not in the usual meaning. To elaborate: Max is given a small box with a gift, and is supposed to open it. He messes it up and instead of casting a white magic spell to identify himself, angrily tries again and casts a higher level black magic spell which disintegrates the box.
      • Physical death is rather cheap in Echo, and lots of mages kept and keep on existing as ghosts even after their millenia of lifetime. Therefore magic intended to do permanent harm or permanently end someone's doings and influence targets not the body, but the mind, the memories or the very soul. Such spells belong to white magic, including White Fire (137 grade, one of Loyso's favourites, according to his daughter) and Green Fire (234 grade - top). Conversely, item enchantments and "kitchen magic" change corporeal objects and thus mostly belong to Black. High level spells may also simultaneously include black and white magic.
    • The Gift: The True Magic, aka the Invisible Magic (it's not as easy to detect as The Plain Magic). Uses forces of the multiverse and thus considered beneficial to the given world. Only a handful of individuals across the multiverse can use it to a larger extent. Among the wizards not even knowing it exists a few basic elements such as Dark Path are fairly widespread.
    • Nature magic. Irrelevant apocalypse-wise, strong in right hands, but practicable only for certain scope of tasks (such as magic potions) and in places from "rustic" and wilder. As such, used by forest witches and other individuals feeling connection to the surrounding nature and mostly dismissed by Capitol's wizards.
    • Innate magic. Several nations, tribes and places hold their own kinds of magic, which may be by far more powerful and more complicated than plain magic.
    • Ritual Magic: Rarely mentioned or used in combat, but known for more exotic uses.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Looking for a way to dispatch Ugurbado and being unable to do so himself due to Ugurbado's unique relationship with those to kill him, Max suggests using reanimated corpses, assuming that Ugurbado would take their "power" of being dead. The undead rip the fully conscious Ugurbado to shreds. Due to said corpses being Anavuayna victims, Ugurbado returns to the multiverse dying from Anavuayna and attempts to goad Loyso Pondokhva into killing him to override the effect. Loyso merely invites Max into his pocket world to share the entertainment.
  • Government Conspiracy: A funny one. Not only in government, but it sprawled its tentacles over all the city from Beggars' Foreman to very rich merchants... and was started because of a tea spoon.
  • Great Offscreen War: The War of the Codex, which ended the Age of the Orders and brought about the Age of the Codex some hundred years before Max's arrival in Echo.
  • Hereditary Curse: Manukhs used to control Uandook "mice". Mice kings used to curse all Manukhs. This didn't end well for either side.
  • Heroism Equals Job Qualification: General Bubuta Bokh was a great hero during their civil war and once saved the King's life. The problem: he was good on a battlefield, but as a chief of police this rustic Boisterous Bruiser is comically incompetent — all the time. The only thing he does well is roaring and swearing at perps... or anyone in range who annoys and does not outrank him, for that matter.
  • Hope Is Scary: Sir Max comments on it.
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: Max saves a dying man (Mokhi Faa) in Bakki Bugvin's Glasses by pleading him not to die. Since the man was under a magical compulsion to fulfill any requests, he healed up instantly like a champ.
  • Human Sacrifice: An ingeniously insane mage invented a way to consume the forgotten Lunar Bull clan's power and connection to the moon for his purposes by finding, abducting, killing and consuming Lunar Bull clan descendants, while metaphorically feeding the hearts of his victims to an incorporeal entity known as a Lunar Calf. The Lunar Calf itself is actually harmless and just lonely. Trouble starts if the Calf is kept captive and fed until it matures, becoming the clan's eponymous Lunar Bull, as this will destroy the world.
  • I Know Your True Name: Fayriba, the shaman of Khenkha, gives Max his True Name, which replaces the lines in his left palm. Juffin considers the True Name, grafted upon flesh in the forgotten Language of Magic a powerful defensive amulet, and tells Max that in earlier times the Properly Paranoid reaction would be to kill the shaman, thus making the True Name a secret.
  • Immortality:
    • Complete Immortality: Elsidiayas, the intangible elves. Possibly the nameless entity at the point opposite to Heart of the World.
    • The Ageless:
      • The sentient stones of Holomi (no information on killing any Khrebels is given); The mice-kings of Uanduk and the elves of Shimuräd forest, both vulnerable to certain artifacts.
      • sufficiently powerful mages, especially True Magic users, effectively stop aging and are notoriously hard to kill.
    • The Undead: Strong-willed people are well-known for coming back as ghosts, although there are some methods to deal with them. The whole process is sufficiently well understood to be commercialized, too. The ancient members of the Order of the Long Way collectively passed "the Paths of the Dead" to achieve a state of corporeal immmortality, being somewhere between this and type III, although the ritual was imperfect.
    • Body Surf: there are spells geared towards Grand Theft Me for this purpose.
    • Life Drinker: The mirror dweller from The Debut in Echo. The Green Waters' dweller. Fätans. The members of the Order of the Long Way now need blood to continue their existence, causing Max some amusement as he deports them to our world as "real vampires".
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: while all pure-blooded elves are effectively immortal, their descendants from marriages with humans or krays are merely long-lived, yet mortal. The elves, grieving for their family members, built the city of Kharumba, where their descendants may stay forever, while their respective deaths wait outside.
  • Immortality Seeker:
    • Corporeal immortality, type II or III: The entry to Kharumba is not reserved to elven descendants only. The city's keepers also sell the right to stay in Kharumba (at an outrageous price, though) and sometimes grant free entry to famous or remarkable persons.
    • Corporeal immortality, type X: the Order of the Long Way. The entire Order passed "the Paths of the Dead" and successfully returned to the world. While the idea was sound, they did not account for how much the world changed over millenia and now require blood to live.
    • Immortality of the mind, type V: A combination of high-grade black and white magic ensuring that you will come back as a ghost. The extra ability to interact with the material world is available at a separate price, too.
  • Just Before the End: The shadow of the apocalypse has been hanging over the world since the War of the Codex, and pretty much the entire series is, in one way or another, about preventing it from occurring. It should have been already after the end, but they got an earlier Arbiter to enforce a more satisfying timeline, and even that is barely enough. Max, being an Arbiter himself, and learning that our world's population has many more Arbiters, comes up with the Literary Agent Hypothesis solution: publish his adventures as a book, thus making the Arbiters among the readers wish for the stories to continue and thus for the world to persist.
  • Kinda Busy Here: Telepathic Calls cannot be blocked or ignored for the most part, so such situations tend to arise inadvertently.
  • The Kingdom: The United Kingdom, the capital of which is Echo.
  • King of the Homeless: Koba.
  • Klatchian Coffee: Kakhar's Balsam, with some side effects.
  • Language of Magic: The old language of Khonkhona is used in high-grade spells. Subverting the Magical Incantation idea, Juffin tells Max that the actual words are not eloquent chants, but crude and simple orders, e.g. an interrogation spell simply translates to "Spill your guts, shit-head!" According to Juffin, higher grade spells are inventive expletives upon loads of obscenity and profanity, and Plain Magic in general has the aspect of forcibly influencing reality.
  • Layered World: Material world -> the Dark Side -> the underside of the Dark Side (though King Mönin reveals in the last book that the "underside" is not a location or space but a way for Arbiters and their minions to travel across worlds in spirit form).
  • Leave No Survivors: the Arvarokhian response to unknown ships approaching Arvarokh. They will afterwards consult their shamans on the intentions of the slain. In the case of Unfriendly Fire, the Arvarokhians will at least bury the hapless sailors with honors.
  • List of Transgressions: part of the Eye of Wrath rite. The Eye of Wrath is an enchanted ring granted by the king as reward for extraordinary services, e.g. saving the king's life. The owner of the ring is exempt from civil law until the current king decides that the ring's owner has gone too far. In this case a hearing is called and a list of crimes is read. As soon as the ring goes crimson, the crimes have exceeded the greatness of the deed, and the ring is returned to the treasury, while the owner is fully accountable for his actions from that moment on. Juffin does the reading for General Bubuta Bokh in Talkative Dead Man.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: In the preface of volume one, Martynchik and the books' illustrator Igor Styopin claimed to have received the manuscripts of the book from Max himself during his visit to our world.
  • Loads and Loads of Races: All anthropomorphic races of Echo are capable of cross-breeding to fertile offspring, making racial distinctions mostly a moot point.
    • Two races of tangible elves originating on the Uanduk continent and invisible elves (at least the tangible ones claim that species to be elven).
    • Kröggels, the dwarves of Echo.
    • Humans originating on the Cherukhta continent and divided into three subspecies: mountain (thoughtful and harmonic), flatland (phlegmatic and passive) and seashore (active and full of temper) dwellers. Almost all humans who left Cherukhta for Khonkhona were seashore dwellers. The term "human" is synonymous with "anthropomorphic sentient" in the Kingdom of Echo and becoming progressively more widespread in the world, as most races consider the term a compliment and an acknowledgement of equality.
    • Krays, the original dwellers of Khonkhona. Some krays are shapeshifters. Pureblood krays can communicate with flora and fauna. Krays in general are less prone to guile or deception and can reach true harmony with the world. Most farmers in the backwater reaches of the Echo kingdom are pure krays who tell their crops what they need and listen to the crops' needs as well.
      • Drakhkhs, the "grim humans", are closest to humans in appearance. Their appearance and personality are either "pretty and nice" or "ugly and nasty", the appearance can switch to fit the current mood and situation. Drakhkhs and their descendants from marriages with humans prefer nature magic and barely and slowly learn plain magic.
      • Skarkhls can be any beast, bird, plant or even mushroom. Some of them prefer the human form and spend almost their entire lives in human shape. Skarkhl descendants of large wild dog breeds excel at shapeshifting. They enjoy to marry humans, and about the half of denizens of the Echo kingdom are to some degree skarkhls. The denizens of the Shimara county, where Juffin comes from, are mainly fox skarkhls.
      • Ekhls, the giants. Ekhls embody the Gentle Giant idea and are drawn to arts. They range from 2 to 6 meters in size and rarely marry other sentients. Their settlements are unique wonders of architecture.
      • Faffs, the "invisible humans". Fully human when visible and can effortlessly merge into the background. Maintaining visibility actually requires conscious efforts for them. The founder of Echo, Khalla Makhun the Furry, always wore a fur coat just to be seen without maintaining visibility. Faff-human or faff-elven descendants no longer possess this trait and have to learn magic for any disguises, although Plain Magic comes easily to them.
      • Khlekhkhels, the water-dwelling humans. They can freely breath underwater. The few families in the city of Echo have houses on the shores of the Khuron river with extensive underwater apartments.
      • Karkhavns, the tree spirit people. They bear dead children. The parents carry a breathless body into their tribe's forest and find their baby alive and well a few hours later. While karkhavns are not bound to their trees, they enjoy visiting them. Each karkhavn is linked to his or her tree - kill the sentient and the tree withers, chop the tree and the sentient dies. To Max's surprise, they do not dwell in fortresses around their forests, but are nomads.
      • Khrebels, the "pure spirits". They never appear in human form, but freely speak any human language and wield powerful magic. Burivukh birds and the sentient stones of the Kholomi fortress are the best known khrebels, but they also occur as plants and beasts. The natives of Arvarokh island were shaped by the burivukh birds, worship them and believe that humans can reincarnate as burivukhs. Their belief is true. Melamori later spends some time on Arvarokh and comes to Max's aid as a burivukh.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: A form of death sentence in Kumon is being subjected to a magical variety until death of dehydration / starvation. Known cures are removing the body part contacting the item, personal intervention of the Khalif of Kumon or any other person who came in contact with the Well of Pain.
  • Love Potion: Tehhi Shekk tries using one on Sir Max when they first meet, and it works... in a way. Actually, it kills him on the spot due to his previously established abnormal reaction on all local drugs. Luckily, Juffin teleports in almost immediately, puts Tehhi and Max's body in bed together (according to a legend, death by love potion can be reversed if the poisoner "proceeds with seduction"), and leaves to procure a second heart for Max from his Shadow. Turns out, the legend was right and Max comes back to life, but Juffin implants a second heart into him, anyway. In any case, it was superfluous to begin with, and Tehhi and Max start dating after this.
  • Magi Babble: Juffin's opinion on magical knowledge trying to sound profound is rather low, which is why he prefers "Corridor Between Worlds" over "Khumgat" — and if apprentices don't think it's hard, it will be easier.
  • Magical Society: Lots of them, actually, at least, in the backstory. There was a whole three thousand years-long Age of the Orders, when an order was formed around every magical tradition and they fought each other for power or out of conflicting views. It was eventually brought to an end when the Order of the Seven-Leaf allied itself with the Gurig dynasty and won the War of the Codex, outlawing and exiling all other orders. Some orders disbanded peacefully shortly before the war. Juffin, however, considers the Secret Investigations a modernized, "legal" version of an ancient Order.
  • Mercy Kill: Several instances:
    • See Blatant Lies above. As Max is called out on his lie, the people ask him not to heal, but at least to kill them, as Anavuayna destroys both body and soul, while death by any other mundane means, especially from Max, means a high chance to come back as a ghost / be reborn in The Multiverse.
    • Manukhs are the descendants of tribe that enslaved the magical Mice Kings of the Uanduk continent, and in retaliation were cursed by each succesive Mice King. All 318 of them. Note that their neighbors considered just one such curse a Fate Worse Than Death, and you'd probably inderstand why Max decided to have the tribe exterminated, rather then prolong their pitiful existence.
  • Mind Screw: Less than could be expected with all the Reality Warpers running around, but still pretty prominent, especially with Max's backstory. The most coherent version of events includes multiple pasts, equally valid and real, albeit with cause-effect relationship that keeps the reader's mind from exploding. The first (by "causality") timeline is Juffin creating him to save the world; the second one is the backstory Max gives us in the first volume, in which he is from our world—apparently he was created with full set of memories which he thought true, and when the Arbiter thinks something is true so strongly, it becomes true; the third one is a supposedly fake story of Max being the lost king of the nomadic tribe—it's made up on-screen by Juffin, but this does not explain Max's mystical link to said tribe that only their lost king is supposed to have, although this may be a case of Clap Your Hands If You Believe on the nomads' part. Hard to tell exactly, which is why this is a legitimate example of Mind Screw. Most of the books feature at least one event that can be considered this, usually the climax.
  • Mood Whiplash: The series is quite prone to it, such as following the extremely depressive Victims of Circumstances up with the hilarious A Trip to Kettari in the first volume, or putting the depressingly paranoid The Book of Burning Pages after the comedic A Bequest for Lonli-Lokli. Special mention goes to The Power of What-Might-Have-Been (especially, The Return of Ugurbado).
  • The Multiverse: The world of Echo, our world, and many others visited throughout the series are parts of an seemingly endless multiverse. Only people gifted with True Magic can access Khumgat, the Corridor Between Worlds, and travel across dimensions, however.
  • Mystical Plague: Anavuayna. While mages above a certain power level are immune to it alltogether, Echo is about to loose 80% of population to it in Return of Ugurbado. Anavuayna slowly liquifies the affected, leaving blank skeletons in puddles of slime. There is no salvation after the heart is affected, yet the victims are fully conscious until death. Healing Anavuayna is possible with a grade 140 white magic spell. After Halla Makhun the Furry found the Heart of the World, he decided to build a city there for his dynasty. Halla challenged Anavuayna, the elven duchess of the area in a card game with the land at stake and won. Anavuayna fled the country, and suffering from Background Magic Field withdrawal, found out that Halla cheated. Mad, and mad with fury, she returned to spread a curse over the new city of Echo, creating the epidemy to carry her name. Halla killed her with his bare hands, stopping the plague.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Max, later Numminorikh, Melifaro in the prequels.
  • Narnia Time:
    • Time passes differently for different people across different worlds.
    • The Dark Side is notorious for this effect on unwary visitors. Juffin suggests that setting up a sufficiently specific event to occur some time after you leave and then envisioning yourself to arrive at that event from the Dark Side allows to control the time of your return.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter on multiple occasions:
    • During their trip to Kettari, Shurf makes the mistake to wake a rather annoyed Max up. Without actually waking up, Max unleashes a stream of Russian profanities. Shurf, being an avid linguist, writes the whole thing down and later prompts Max to explain all those words.
    • Sir Juffin Khalli mentions going through his stock of profanities as a way to kill time waiting. By his own words, the list features about 2500 separate entries.
    • A seasoned captain's reaction to some really bad news is given as several minutes of profanity ending with: "... him with an anchor fourfold!"
  • Necromantic: A former lover revived Dzhifa Savankha, Echo's Robin Hood expy for this reason. Dzhifa is very close to his former self, but nonetheless asks for a Mercy Kill.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: how the Rendezvouz Quarter works. Any couple who met there are supposed to split after the night, and attempting to stay together supposedly courts with disaster.
  • Older Than They Look up to Really 700 Years Old up to Time Abyss: In the World of Echo, known as the World of the Rod / Axis in the multiverse, with the Heart of the World as that Rod / Axis, regular humans (even immigrants) develop and age slower and live up to 300 years. Powerful mages may live well beyond that, as longevity is only a question of knowledge and personal power. Melifaro is fairly young at 115, Juffin is ca. 700 years old, and Maba Kalokh is at least 3000 - he was the first and only Grand Magister in his order's history. Khrebels, e.g. the sentient stones of the Kholomi castle, are probably immortal.
  • One-Man Army: Most of the LSIF members, given that it is an Oddly Small Organisation with just eight or nine officers, two of whom (Luukfi Penz and Skalduar van Dufunbukh) are clearly support personnel and never work in the field, but Max, Shurf and Juffin in particular. Kofa is no slouch himself, but he's mostly retired from action, while Melifaro, Melamori and Numminorikh are (usually) still a full notch below.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: While the Book of Uncommitted Crimes contains all the crimes ever thought up but never put into action, any given reader will only see those entries which he or she would be able to solve. Kofa Yokh used the Book as an aptitude test for police officers. To his dismay, his successor after the War of the Codes, Bubuta Bokh, could not see a single paragraph.
  • Other Me Annoys Me: Max notes that his appearance and charisma are inversely proportional to the actual state of mind - he looks the happiest when in despair, and hates the Max who seems to walk around in his body.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Averted. Kröggels are nowhere near Tolkien or contemporary Russian fantasy dwarves and come in two varieties:
    • Flatland kröggels are caustic, cantankerous, quarrelsome gnomes. Masters of disguise and stealth, related to the krays.
    • Mountain kröggels of the Kebla princedom are a social and amicable people. Kebla is unique in housing small kröggels and giant ekhls in the same cities. Cities of Kebla are among the most wondrous sights in the world of Echo.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Not better, but very different from fantasy standards. In A Bequest for Lonli-Lokli, Shurf takes the time needed to drive from Echo to the backwater place where his inheritance awaits to drop an Info Dump regarding various sentient species on Max. Said dump also contains a multiple level Stealth Pun nicely dispersed inside, building upon established elven vulnerability to alcohol. The overall species name is keyifayi ("кейифайи"). Closest Russian word is "кайф", meaning "flush" or "high". The foremost difference between elves, humans and krays is the formers' absence of binary logic. They do not clearly grasp concepts like good vs. evil, black vs. white or for that matter male vs. female. The last heavily influences their and their descendants' love lives to the dismay of non-elven populations. Max is shocked to learn that King Gurig, being of elven descent, has a male and a female "favorite liaison".
    The subspecies are:
    • Upiates ("Упиаты"), the peaceful elves. They never left their homelands on the Uandook continent. Generally very passive, but nigh-omnipotent if sufficiently disturbed to take action. The population of the Kuman Khalifate is almost entirely composed of their descendants from short-lived marriages with humans. Relaxation and being at peace are main effects of opiate derived drugs.
    • Amfitamayas ("Амфитамайи"), the excited elves. Amfitamayas are inventors, travelers and conquerors. All elves on the Khonkhona continent who came with the conqueror Ulviar the Faceless and all elves on the Cherukhta continent are amfitamayas. Excitement and strong drive to action are main effects of amphetamines derived drugs.
    • Elcidiayas ("Элсидиайи"), the invisible elves. They are absolutely immaterial and inhabit material items. Their proximity fills sentients with existential childlike happiness. After prolonged co-habitation elcidiayas may share their knowledge with other sentients, and True Magic users vastly benefit from it. Antiques' merchants mainly profit from searching for and selling of items inhabited by elcidiayas. Hallucinations and expanded consciousness are main effects of hallucinogenic drugs, and the probably best known hallucinogenic is LSD, transliterated to "ЛСД" in Russian.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Ostensibly referred as "the spark" (as in, "the divine spark") in the setting, it is nevertheless a well-known, if hardly understood, magical concept. There are also shadows and souls - the exact description of the cosmology is never given to Max.
  • Phlebotinum-Handling Equipment: Containment/casting chambers, magic for handling Death Gloves.
  • Pocket Protector: Happens twice in The Foxes of Magakhon: once when a bottle of Kakhar's Balsam protects Max from a Baboom shot and the second time, when Magister Honna's headband (which Max wraps around his neck) prevents his magical decapitation—too bad it burns up on use. In retrospect, the two events are connected, solidifying Max's status as Cosmic Plaything: Kakhar's Balsam is a stimulant that kept him awake on a long mission and Honna's headband was an amulet that prevented Khumgat from claiming him during his sleep: with both out of the way, Max almost disappears from the world of Echo the next time he falls asleep.
  • Portal Door: Almost a motif. Max either tweaked his Khumgat entry or conditioned himself to leave the world only via doors opened in the darkness. Closing eyes counts — which is good, since soon he began to see in normal darkness simply due to living in the Heart of the World long enough. Then the Labyrinth of Mönin used much the same form of travel, only directly and without darkness.
  • Power Floats: while flight takes a lot out of the mage, levitation a few centimeters above ground is much easier, while keeping the added bonuses of not leaving footprints, not leaving a trace for Masters of Tracking and not triggering various traps and enchantments on the ground.
    • See Power High below: mages experiencing such a boost can start levitating.
  • Power High: In several variants. Specifically, the temporary boost from a holey chalice makes one literally power-drunk... thus the Order of the Holey Chalice quickly made adepts very loyal and diligent, but wasn't too keen on self-control. While the Order has long been disbanded, Max can borrow Shurf's holey chalice and recreate the effects on himself.
  • Power Parasite:
    • The Old Kings' Incantation, used with leftover drinks in cups (and possibly leftovers on plates) and then drinking (and eating) those leftovers, transfers power from the drinker to the caster. Invented by king Khalla Makhun the Furry, as he blended Plain and True Magic in an attempt to prolong his life.
    • Among other abilities, Ugurbado becomes as powerful as any person who kills him.
    • Nuflin Moni Makh was rumored to have taken power from the founders of the Seven-Leaf beyond what was considered his share as their disciple. Lady Sotofa also notes that Nuflin drained the Seven-Leaf members instead of empowering them, as tradition had the other Grand Magisters do with their Orders.
  • Professional Killer: Misa Luddis, aka "the Noseless Misa" — an old lady who used to kill not by spells, but "did wonders with cold steel". In the old good time, one Juffin Hally "the Kettarian Hunter", and his two apprentices, secretly including Shurf Lonli-Lokli "the Mad Fishmonger".
  • Properly Paranoid with Crazy-Prepared: there is a spell that prevents a person from featuring in another person's hallucinations, e.g. causing plot holes in LotusEaterMachines. And Makhi Ainti not only knows the spell, but has cast it on himself.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Most Arvarokhians qualify.
  • Raging Stiffie: result of the gräm potion. Gräm requires a lvl 20+ black magic and is forbidden under the Codex. Max happens to confiscate some counterfeit gräm and spikes Melifaro's kamra cup with a single serving. Melifaro simultaneously returns the favor by spiking the entire pitcher with at least a triple dose, but Max leaves after taking only a few sips. Juffin, aware of the mutual pranks, orders a fresh pitcher, but leaves the spiked one on the table. As Kofa Yokh helps himself to the spiked kamra, Juffin enjoys the show and Kofa ends up in the Rendezvous Quarter.
  • Reality Warper:
    • Arbiters in a form of Blessed with Suck - they can not control where, when and how their wishes come true, making their entire lives a large Be Careful What You Wish For. This is because, as it is put in the novels themselves, Arbiters' wishes are always fulfilled—but in a "sooner or later, one way or another" manner.
    • Emulation of Arbiter power through magic (though it's inefficient and imperfect).
    • Arvarokhians worship burivukhs as their gods, and they have good reasons to do so. Where burivukhs dwell in numbers, the world becomes as they want to see it. Arvarokh is the only place where the number of burivukhs is really large, though... To quote Kurush, Juffin Halli's burivukh: "We like beautiful people, so Arvarokhians are beautiful. Their eyes have the same color as ours, because we like this color. They are taciturn, because we are not interested in hearing their ramblings. They are active, because we like discussing their doings. We live alone, but our elders come to Arvarokhians to die and enjoy these creatures - they are the pinnacle of our common workings. Arvarokhians like to die, because they believe that each of them may be reborn as a burivukh. This is but a superstition, but sometimes we believe they succeed."
  • Reality Warping Is Not a Toy: A major motif throughout the series, especially when Max's Arbiter powers come into play.
  • Real Life: Our world is visited a couple of times briefly. Also, My Ragnarök is set entirely here.
  • Redemption Quest: The driving force of Magister Jochchi Shavanakhola. His redemption for several millenia is supporting Ch'yolve Maytokhchi, the Wild Wind, in the great work of destroying the Dead Illusion Worlds. Khebul'rikh of Ukkumbi, responsible for the creation of the Dead Illusion Worlds, became Jochchi Shavanakhola, and can not undo his own work.
  • Rewriting Reality: The Yonokhian Seal in The Quiet City is supposed to function like this. Turns out, it was just Max's Cosmic Plaything status and Arbiter powers playing up again.
  • Sanity Slippage: Max goes through this in The Book of Burning Pages. It's told in first-person.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: While "Master of Tracking" is a job title, it is actually an innate gift required to get the job. Masters of Tracking can "step upon a trace / footprint". A Master of Tracking might have to walk across a room several times until the effect kicks in. Literal footprints are not required, but people carried or floating don't leave a trace, although merely boarding a vehicle does not break the trace - apparently just having your feet upon a surface is enough. Finding a trace causes the Master of Tracking to know what the person did and inflicts an intense desire to follow the footprints while repeating the victim's actions. Masters of Tracking distinguish between footprints of different people (with more experience, they can get a power reading and some info on them) and form a bond to their victims, allowing them to interact with the pursued in real time. The actual amount of damage and the control of damage inflicted vary from mild discomfort (Melamori's predecessor at LSIF, with intent to find) to mild depression (Melamori, with little intent to harm the pursued) to paralysis and pain (Melamori's predecessor at LSIF, with intent to disable) to death ( Max, with intent to harm). Masters of Tracking can not track the dead, which makes using disposable henchmen the Properly Paranoid way to deal with stolen artifacts. Max breaks the rules - he can track both dead and undead (not that he likes it, as the link with the pursued causes un-death as feedback), and manages to follow a Dark Way teleport without actually mastering this skill himself first. Melamori's Tracking causes mild euphoria in Max, likely due to his origins and Arbiter status.
    • Order adept level mages are not immune to the Tracking effect. Order master level mages and Determinators might negate it to some extent. Order Grandmaster level mages, e.g. Juffin, constantly keep up layered shield spells against Tracking. Juffin tells Max that his first shield simply cut Melamori off his trail as she tried to Track Juffin for fun after being introduced to the LSIF, while further shields would have hurt her using the link her Tracking set up.
  • The Secret of Long Pork Pies: In King Bangee.
  • Serpent of Immortality: In My Ragnarok (a Spin-Off of the series), Jormungandr the World Serpent arrives to grant immortality to Max and his army. Too bad Max kills its instead.
  • Shattering the Illusion:
    • Repeating the procedure someone's mother used to wake them up breaks sleep spells.
    • At least one of Shurf Lonli-Lokli's breathing techniques allows to ignore illusions, bordering on temporary True Sight.
    • Melifaro's gift as a Dark Side Guardian renders him immune to most illusionary effects.
    • The Well of Pain at the walls of Cherhavla has this effect by proxy: put a limb into the well, then touch (or actually punch or kick) somebody with the limb to snap them out of their reveries.
    • Max is among other royal rewards given a Child of the Purple Pearl. During the hunt for a fätan, Juffin figures out that the Children of the Purple Pearl are artifacts which protect the owner's mind and memory from manipulation.
    • The Sword of King Mönin, embedded in Max and incorporeal, will break the wielder out of illusions.
  • Single-Use Shield: Magister Honna's headband was enchanted to protect even against One-Hit Kill, No Saving Throw artifact weapons. However, it could only do so once, burning up afterward.
  • The Slow Path / Living Relic: The Order of the Long Way's members left the world for several millenia and traversed the Paths of the Dead.
    • They find some of the changes amazing, e.g. the ability to tell lies, because in their time "the words had more power" and attempting a lie had 2 possible outcomes: either the person got enough power to make it happen by saying it, which was a wonder, or the person simply died from the effort.
    • They also consider using the lives of people in your power as bargaining chips (for acquired immortality) acceptable, while Max believes that any Immortality Seeker should only gamble his or her own life.
  • Spell Levels: The Plain Magic spells are categorized into 234 levels (the highest tiers mostly include just one well-known spell). All levels above the 4th are considered a breach of the Ban on Magic and punishable by law—but then again, most people cannot go above the 20th. The world's greatest mage has once almost pulled off a 235 level spell.
  • Stink Bomb: while Scenters are very rare, LSIF has one. The group smart enough to levitate from the crime scene to prevent leaving traces for Masters of Tracking is also smart enough to spray the rooms with a rare substance which disables Scenters temporarily. Numinorikh, being the new guy, has serious issues about his usefulness without his Scenter gift.
  • Taken for Granite:
    • Regular Death Gloves are a One-Hit Kill weapon. Due to improvised crafting materials, Shurf's right glove is a benevolent version of the artifact, reversibly rendering victims fully immobile and petrified.
    • The LSIF is called to deal with undead at a cemetery. As the undead prove regenerative, Max suggests using some sort of liquid stone on them to render them immobile. The undead turn out to be the Order of the Long Way and their new form of life a successful attempt to traverse the Paths of the Dead and return into the world. After providing necessary explanations, the Order's Grand Magister notes that Max has thought up terrifyingly effective restrains - as the liquid stone hardened, it neither killed the Order members nor rendered them unconscious, leading to And I Must Scream scenario.
    • Max literally orders Ugurbado to become a statue, leaving him conscious for the reanimated skeletons who rip Ugurbado to shreds.
    • The little Gorgon: Max and Melifaro are dispatched to a village which ceased all communications. They find the place full of incredibly life-like statues, a blind cat and a very scared girl hiding in a basement. The girl tells them that a woman appeared in her dream and kissed her on the eyes, which caused the effect. Due to his earlier summoning experiments, Max happens to carry a pair of sunglasses, which allow the girl to leave the place. She joins the Seven-Leaf in Lady Sotofa's care, and Max has to summon a backup stash of sunglasses.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: Experienced mages and powerful entities can visit dreams for various benevolent (teaching, communications) or malevolent (killing, consuming souls) reasons. Powerful, but inexperienced mages may cause small scale reality warping, as their dreams happen in reality.
  • Thinking Up Portals: Using the Dark Way looks like teleportation and can be done near-instantly, but it's about creating or re-opening pathways, which remains in place, can be followed, barred with a locked door, etc. It mostly belongs to the basics of True Magic - wizards ignorant of it can do this, but the success rate varies, so creating a path instantly is a mark of true talent. The Dark Way should connect two places on terra firma, and attempts to break this limitation are for some reason unsafe.
  • Time Skip: In-Universe, Max embarks on an exploration of Khumgat and its various worlds in the end of The Foxes of Magakhon, during which an entire year passes in Echo.
    • Two parts of The Quiet City are separated by time skip with short narration of solved cases.
  • Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: Arvarokhian titles are also partial biographies of the person, and the only time the complete title is given is when the soul stands before the Dead God of Arvarokh. Alotho Allirokh gives his official title to Gurig VIII as follows:
    • Alotho Allirokh of the Ironsided Hoob clan; Lord of Aliurkh and Chijkho; Sternly-Glancing Overlord of two half-hundreds Sharpteeth; mighty and loyal warrior of Tojla Liomurik Silver Cone the Conqueror of Arvarokh who rules it to the limits of the world as told in song by Harlokh the Baker, the greatest storyteller among the born; Waterer of the Royal Tree of Spicy Flowers; Keeper of meal-taking carpets; Bringer of the third chalice at the New Moon Feast after the spouse and the Elder Cupbearer; irreplaceable Helmsman of the Royal Boat at the Ulfati lake, who has the right to wear bone shoes on needles of Zoggi; Royal-Chambers-Locking Overlord of a half-hundred of key bundles; Chief of reprisal against Isisorinams; Speaker of the ninth and the twelfth word during the Royal Game of Launi, who kills the Kul'okh bird with two glances, one strike and one ruse; Bearer of three handfuls of coins into the crypt of Kvargi Ishmirmani; Fire-Starter under the royal cauldron for Vatla; Speaker of the Morins' tongue who consumes the Mayushi pig in two-and-a-half goes and who wrought two times twice half-tens songs of his own great heroics.
  • Uncoffee: Kamra.
  • Unequal Rites: There is the Plain Magic, which is well-studied, can be used by pretty much anyone, but mostly forbidden by law, and there is True Magic, an obscure Secret Art that can be used only by select few and provides New Powers as the Plot Demands.
  • Uneven Hybrid: Late in the series Max learns that most of his colleagues have non-humans down their bloodlines: Juffin, like most Kettarians, has some werefox blood in him; Shurf is descended from the elves; Melifaro has both dwarven and giant ancestors; Melamori has a lot of elven and faff blood. In fact, the only pure-blooded humans in Secret Investigations are Kofa and Max himself (insofar one disregards his birth in an entirely different world).
  • Urban Fantasy: Although it is set in another world, most of the series takes place and around the sprawling metropolis of Echo.
  • Utility Magic: How most of the Plain Magic is used in Echo.
  • Weather Control Machine: Of the magical variety. The kings of Echo actively avert natural disasters and improve harvests. This is apparently not an inherited ability, but a set of skills and rituals which dates back several millenia and several dynasties. This is the main reason the kingdom did not break down into an oligarchy of warring Orders - according to Juffin, the Orders' leaders were sane enough not to jeopardize the prosperity of the country alltogether, instead fighting for control.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Eponymous Ugurbado aquires his power from some elder entity, but visibly slips in sanity.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: In the original Sir Nuflin speaks with a strong Odessa accent, which is heavily influenced by Yiddish.
  • You Can't Fight Fate / Screw Destiny: This dichotomy spans the entire series as a leitmotif.
  • Your Magic's No Good Here: In Nests of Chimerae, Max is Trapped in Another World and apparently De Powered by its magic functioning differently from the magic in Echo. By the end of the book, however, he picks up a few nifty tricks and returns home.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: In the world of Echo, losing the "spark of life" or your Shadow is possible and lethal, making several entities natural predators upon sentients.
    • The mirror dweller in The Debut in Echo, Max's first case.
    • Makhlilgl Annokh, the undead dweller of cell #5-Khokh-Au in the Holomi prison, attempting his own resurrection.
    • combined with Body Snatcher: A fätan is a spirit summoned across the worlds and taught to perform some tasks by the summoner. Old fätans grow more skilled and also more dangerous. They will attempt to consume the summoner's soul and take over the body to continue dwelling in the world and to consume further souls.
    • Combined with To Serve Man: The eponymous Green Waters' dweller consumes both bodies and souls of those sleeping in the water while entranced in his song. In it's limited sentience, it considers souls a worthy payment for the joy of witnessing the song.

Or maybe she published his texts, they did meet some years ago after all.
Labyrinth of ReflectionsRussian LiteratureLine of Delirium
Labyrinth of ReflectionsLiterature of the 1990sThe Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories
Kitty NorvilleUrban FantasyLeague Of Magi
Kushiel's LegacyFantasy LiteratureThe Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories

alternative title(s): Max Frei
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